Watch Out for these 5 School Scams

Phony deliveries among latest school scams: Internet Scambusters #566

Our enthusiasm to support education, or maybe improve our own learning, underpins a whole collection of school scams.

But there’s more to it than that. Schools themselves can also become unwitting victims of criminal trickery.

In this week’s issue we highlight some of the most common school scams, with guidance on how to avoid them.

However, we encourage you to take a look at this week’s most popular articles from our other sites:

Let’s get started…

Watch Out for These 5 School Scams

Because we all value a good education and trust the people who are supposed to provide it, it’s relatively easy for crooks to pull off school scams.

Sometimes, the school is a victim. Other times it’s the people who support them or people who want to improve their learning and qualifications.

This week, we highlight five school scams and show how you — or your school — can avoid falling victim.

Wrong Delivery

Claiming to be school admin people, scammers order supplies like stationery, ink toner, even tech equipment, and have it delivered to a school.

Usually someone at the school signs for it without paying too much immediate attention to what’s in the consignment.

Straight after the delivery, the crooks phone the school claiming to be from another organization, the supplier or maybe even the delivery carrier.

They say the order was wrongly delivered to the school and that they’ll come pick it up, which they do.

Later the original, genuine seller invoices the school for the products.

Depending on the security systems in place, the school may inadvertently pay the invoice without checking it.

If they spot the scam, they still have no idea who the crooks were and then have to go through the process of trying to resolve a payment dispute with the supplier.

Action: Use order numbers and always check deliveries against these and the order details.

If an item has been wrongly delivered to you, contact the carrier, don’t hand the goods to anyone else.

And always check invoices against orders.

Phony Fundraisers — 1

This scam targets school supporters rather than the schools themselves.

Local businesses receive a solicitation to sponsor school sports kits.

In return for a fee, they’re told their name will go on t-shirts and other garments.

But, of course, the items don’t exist and the school, when contacted, knows nothing about the deal.

Action: The approach may come from a supposed sportswear supplier or marketing firm rather than a school, so check with the school first if you receive such a solicitation.

Even if it turns out to be genuine, check out the credentials of the organizer before giving them any money.

Phony Fundraisers — 2

This one is as old as the hills but it happens all the time. Someone knocks at your door and asks you to make a donation to support a local school.

It may be a student-age caller or they could be older, claiming to be a coach or a parent. They may just be asking for a donation or they may claim to be selling something like a magazine subscription.

Unless the caller is a neighbor, you have absolutely no way of knowing if this person is who they say they are and if they’re genuinely collecting for a school project.

Action: We hate to discourage you from making donations to such worthwhile causes as school sports and activity programs but you do have to start out from the position of being a skeptic.

Do all you can to verify who they are. Ask them more about their schools, the project and who else might be involved.

Tell them you’d rather send a donation directly to the school and ask whom you should address it to.

If they fumble this, it’s likely a scam. If they confidently name a person, with relevant contact details, you can either relent and give them the money or send it to that person.

Read more about bogus magazine sellers in our earlier charity fraud special, Beware this “Neighborly” Charity Fraud.

Hoax Letters

In a similar vein to the phony fundraisers, letters purporting to come from a local school invite parents to make a contribution to the school.

In return, says this scam letter, students will receive credit points or exemptions from certain tests.

The letter may even contain a sliding scale of donations and the rewards they supposedly earn.

It’s not clear, from the examples we found, how people are supposed to send their donation but it certainly won’t end up at the school.

Action: This scam seems to have started out as a student prank and then morphed into something more sinister.

Of course, there’s no way a school would offer a deal like this, though some students might welcome it!

Online Courses

We’ve reported before on the risk of tutoring scams in Tutor Scam Alert for Work-Seekers.

However, the incidence of dubious online teaching establishments and certification seems to be on the rise.

The fact is that anyone can set themselves up as an educational institution, provide course materials, and certification.

They may even be genuine but the certificate you get may not be worth the paper it’s written on and the education you receive may not be worth the money you pay for it.

Action: A good education is not cheap so beware of organizations offering courses at ridiculously low prices.

The same goes for colleges that offer a fast route to qualifications or offer substantial credits for “life experience.” There are no shortcuts.

On the other hand, it’s worth noting that some leading educational institutions do offer free online courses — but without specific qualifications.

As always, check out the credentials of any organization that wants you to pay them.

Check independently what others say about them and any supposed qualifications. Are they externally accredited (i.e. checked out and approved by an independent educational body)?

These are just a handful of the many tricks that crooks use to dupe schools, parents, students and their supporters.

So, always be on your guard and skeptical. Education is costly but at least it’s aimed at improving our brainpower.

School scams are costly too but they do nothing but line the pockets of crooks.

Time to conclude for today — have a great week!